A 17-year-old American student detailed her recent experience of being interrogated and strip-searched at Israel’s Ben Gurion International airport, according to Mondoweiss.
The Massachusetts teen had taken a summer trip to Israel, as it was time for her to return home; however, she encountered one of the most traumatic ordeals imaginable.
The girl, only known as Hanna, was born to an American mother and Moroccan father, which apparently made her a target of suspicion. As she made her way through security at the airport, she was profiled and sent through “special” security measures.
“When it was my turn to get checked, I was sent to the end of a long metal table and was told to dump out all my belongings so another security officer could check them,” Hanna recounted.
“After only about 10 minutes of checking and questioning me, the officer said I could pack all my stuff and I was ready to go. He picked up my notebook to hand it to me and it happened to open to the one page of writing in the whole book, a childhood Arabic lesson, which was dated 2012 at the top.”
Once the security guard noticed the Arabic, he made Hanna wait as he went and showed it to other airport officials who proceeded to interrogate the young girl.
“Why do you have Arabic in this notebook?” one of them purportedly asked. “What connection do you have to Arabs?” was the follow up question.
Hanna said she told them her father was from Morocco, which prompted them to hold her there even longer and examine her passport further.
“He came back with a woman who right away started asking questions like, ‘What holidays do you celebrate?’ ‘Are you sure you are not Palestinian?’ At the end she asked, ‘What are your parents’ names?’ When I answered, ‘Susan and Ahmed’ she said, ‘and what?’ so I repeated ‘Ahmed.’ She grabbed my passport and told me she would be back.”
The woman then took her to a private area for additional security screening. All of the electronic screening still wasn’t enough. The woman also checked between the girl’s toes and then ordered her to take off her bra because “the scanner found something and she needed to check,” according to Hanna.
After being strip-searched and scanned multiple times, she was finally cleared through security, but her troubles were far from over.
Not only was she prohibited from purchasing a juice to drink during her flight, but she was also barred from boarding her plane because the airport had supposedly “lost” her bag. Although they had already found it, they still held her back until security came to re-check her bag, yet again.
“Finally, after over two hours of being questioned and strip searched, I was able to board the plane and go home. The bag, which had been searched in front of me at the gate, did not make the flight and was delivered two days later,” Hanna recalled.
As she described the ordeal, she also expressed the emotions she felt throughout the process including nervousness, anger, and fear.
It is clear that Hanna’s experience is an unfortunate side effect of the ongoing Israel/Palestine conflict that has gotten many innocent people hurt, killed, and humiliated.
While having strict security measures in international airports is necessary, it is evident that this was a case of sheer discrimination and profiling.
Hanna was of no threat, and airport officials knew this after the first security screening they made her pass through. The airport security used intimidation to let the girl know how they felt about her heritage.
Hanna, however, is not discouraged, “rather than scare me off, this experience has made me more determined to help those who suffer much worse every day,” she said.
When will we stop allowing the innocent and vulnerable to suffer as a result of wars and conflicts that they have no control over?
Banner Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons user Pilettes